Saturday, March 26, 2011

"The Africans"

When I decided I was going to Uganda, I realized that I know very little about Africa. I don’t remember studying much about Africa in school. I started to wonder about its history and culture, and how it has come to the place it is today. I love to read, so I figured the best place to start was Half Price Books! Sure enough, I found a wonderful book for $1 in the clearance section! I read The Africans by David Lamb.

I would definitely recommend this book if you want to learn more about Africa. Although not the most up to date (it was published in 1984), it is written from the first-hand experiences of a reporter who traveled all over Africa for 8 years, experienced life on the continent, met many of Africa’s leaders, and gained insight into the African culture. The book is like a collection of essays on different topics such as Africa’s history, culture, economy, wars, journalism, and health care (my favourite).

The concept that stuck out most to me from this book is the African’s outlook on life. They have a phrase, “Shauri ya Mungu” which means “It’s God’s will.” The author calls this attitude fatalism- whatever will be will be. And in one sense, this is an appropriate name because sometimes this attitude keeps the African people from accepting positive change (i.e. vaccinations, clean water). However, I think fatalism is a harsh name for an outlook that helps people go on in a very uncertain life. Africans have so much instability and suffering in their lives- so much that I have a hard time imagining myself in their position. My suffering is a drop in the bucket compared to theirs- and yet I find myself questioning God as if I have a right to escape all disappointment and pain. The agony of emotions that goes along with such questioning can seem crippling. The Africans suffer beyond what I can imagine, and yet they are able to accept their suffering and go on without blame and with gratefulness for life. That is quite amazing. I look forward to seeing what this is like in real life.

The chapter on healthcare in Africa stirred both excitement and sadness in me. Sadness because there’s so much need and so much suffering. Excitement because I get to go and help, if God wills. We’ll be holding clinics in two or three locations in northern Uganda. We’ll also be holding health education classes. I believe that health education is the most impactful way that I can attempt to help the people we will see. I hope that I can communicate the basics of health and disease in a way that the people will both understand and accept. I would appreciate your prayers for wisdom and guidance as I do research and formulate a health curriculum. Thanks for your prayers!